In 1851, millions of people from all over Europe gathered in London, England. They came to see an exhibit featuring fascinating items, like stuffed zebras, marble statues, and the world’s largest diamond. But what truly amazed crowds was the first flushing toilet. Over five months’ time, 675,000 people waited in line to use it. Why was a toilet such a big deal?
Before the toilet was invented, people in London faced a stinky—and deadly—situation. They disposed of feces by dumping it in streets, ditches, or rivers, where it seeped into the water supply. People who drank from contaminated wells got sick. They didn’t know poop contained germs that could cause serious intestinal infections, like cholera and typhoid.